A few months ago, for no reason I was aware of at the time, I started reading books about motorcycle gangs. With horrified fascination, I learned about a subculture of people who had little use for the rules of society, treated women badly and resorted to violence without much thought. Yet the biker subculture isn't really about rebellion, or even individual toughness - its gang members all wear uniforms, they all ride Harley Davidson motorcycles, and all have to adhere to strict codes of conduct within their gang. They might as well be in the military.
Once in a while, it's important to look at extremes. The motorcycle gang culture is what society could look like if enough people were wounded and without hope. Their culture is an extreme we all could have been pushed to under the right conditions. Every time I wonder why it's important to be generous even when I don’t feel giving, empathetic when I feel impatient, or nurturing when I feel angry, I remind myself how easily life can drift into something unrecognizable and ugly. We're only animals, and there are plenty of places to look for reminders of that.